When a writer recuses himself from reviewing a show because he or she has a friend involved in its production, he or she is less likely to mean “I can’t objectively review it, being biased” than “things might get awkward between my friend and me if I said what I think about this show.” But in the case of Tales of the Perilously Grounded!, a show presented at the Minnesota Fringe Festival by my friend Rebekah Rentzel, I genuinely do not know what I would have said about the show if I didn’t know Rebekah as a friend. The show is so real and so personal that it’s very hard to detach my impressions of it as a piece of theater from my impressions of it as a fascinating hour spent listening to a good friend to whom I now feel a lot closer. I loved it, but you might be bored out of your skull. I have a hunch your reaction would be a lot closer to the former than the latter, but that’s just a hunch.
In my review of the last Fringe show I saw at the Augsburg Studio, I called Seth Lepore’s Losing My Religion “as bare-bones as Fringe shows get.” Well, the joke’s on me, because Tales of the Perilously Grounded! is even simpler: there’s no chair, and Rebekah plays only one character, herself. In Tales, created with Jenny Moeller, Rebekah tells the story of her California upbringing and her subsequent sojourns in England, Maine, and—since almost exactly a year ago—Minnesota. Where is home? What is “home”? Rebekah doesn’t have an answer, and she doesn’t even ask the question very explicitly. She just tells her story, simply and well.
I’ve already made clear that I’m in a poor position to predict whether you’d enjoy the show, but for me, the best part of Rebekah’s story is its simplicity. There’s no obvious hook: she’s not struggling with her sexuality, or her race, or mental illness. Tales is not a musical. “Rebekah Rentzel” is a name known and respected by a lot of people on the local independent theater scene, but not by Joe Fringegoer. You might be left thinking, as I was after Tales, that it could have been anyone up there. Your average friend or family member probably isn’t as skilled a storyteller as Rebekah, but everyone has a story to tell. I feel lucky to have heard Rebekah’s and I have a feeling that if you make your way to one of the remaining performances of Tales, you’ll feel lucky too.
Photo courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival